Savan-Seno SEZ in Lao PDR

The Savan-Seno Special Economic zone is situated along the East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC). This SEZ made little progress until the Second Lao–Thai Friendship Bridge opened in 2007. As of 2019, around 70 enterprises, including China, Thailand, Japan, Canada, the Netherlands and France, have registered in the Savan-Seno SEZ.

The impact of the second bridge and the SEZ on the tourism industry is notable. Tourist arrivals increased substantially after the bridge's opening; the number of tourists in Savannakhet risen from just below half a million in 2008 to more than a million in 2015. The supporting tourism industries expanded markedly in Savannakhet, where the number of accommodation establishments (hotels, resorts, guest houses) increased from 115 in 2009 to 196 in 2015. The number of rooms rose from 2,302 in 2009 to 4,351 in 2015. The hotel/casino in the SEZ was exceptionally high profile in attracting tourists from Thailand, where casinos are not permitted. In a 2012 ADB report, concerns were expressed that the casino was the principal outcome of the SEZ and had substantial negative externalities. Still, the people flow and easing of border trade following the bridge's opening helped establish the cross-border transport infrastructure that would encourage manufacturing activity within the SEZ.

The primary drivers of this SEZ relate to its strategic geographic location, low labour costs, low electricity costs, good access to water, its preferential trade schemes that allow easy access to the EU, Japanese and the US markets, and investment incentives offered by Lao’s government. Political stability was also a determining factor for its success. However, the development of SEZ is impacted by several challenges. The lack of policy coordination between SEZ and Lao PDR's provincial and central government creates numerous difficulties for the SEZ. Connectivity is an issue as the only airport, Savannakhet, is very small, serves only a few flights per week, and cannot serve large planes due to its short runway.  The other challenges related to waste and wastewater treatment systems that exist only in one of four sub-zones, and shortage of skilled labour and engineers.